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Climate change looms as major threat to key B.C. industries

Forestry, fisheries, tourism and agriculture will be among the hardest hit, say B.C.-based researchers

Screenshot 2015-02-16 11.15.02

Throughout 2015, Business in Vancouver will examine the effects of climate change on the province’s economy. From forestry to tourism to power generation and infrastructure planning, the forecast trend toward higher temperatures will have an impact on many of the industries that have sustained B.C. for decades. 

For the first instalment in our climate change series, BIV asked Tom Pedersen of the University of Victoria’s Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and Deborah Harford of Simon Fraser University’s Adaptation to Climate Change Team to provide a tour of the climate-changed province of the future.

Drier summers and wetter winters. Higher sea levels and lower rivers. Less skiing and more complex and expensive infrastructure planning.

These are some of the changes B.C. residents can expect to see over the next 100 years if global emissions are not cut drastically, said Tom Pedersen, director of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions at the University of Victoria.

“Right now we’re beyond the worst-case scenario that the scientific community has mapped out in a very sophisticated, formal way,” Pedersen said. costs_of_climate_changeIn the United States, the Risky Business Project, a coalition of business leaders and politicians, has begun to highlight the potentially huge economic costs of climate change, from storm damage to crop failure to threats to human health.

In British Columbia, we’ve already witnessed the dramatic effects of climate change. Throughout the 2000s, the mountain pine beetle infestation ravaged the province’s Interior pine forests, leaving distinctive swaths of red-needled, dead trees. Warmer temperatures encouraged the spread of the beetle.

This year’s warm, rainy winter hit ski hills throughout the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island hard; several closed early or didn’t open at all. While next year may be different, the general trend is toward warmer, wetter winters.

“The rate we’re emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere continues to increase,” Pedersen said. “If we’re serious about not allowing climate change to get out of hand, we have to see that rate decreasing.”

precipitation_map_changeForestry and tourism are just two of the sectors Pedersen expects to be hit hard by the changing climate. Aquaculture and fisheries, agriculture and energy production are also expected to undergo big changes over the next few decades.

Realtors and developers and professions such as engineering and architecture are also increasingly thinking about their responsibility to be knowledgeable about climate change effects, said Deborah Harford, executive director of Simon Fraser University’s Adaptation to Climate Change Team.

“The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC has released a position paper on climate change and what their members should be doing because they are getting concerned about liability,” Harford said.

Under scientists’ “worst-case scenario,” greenhouse gas emissions will have added 8.5 watts of additional heat per square metre to the earth’s surface by 2100.

“That doesn’t sound like much, but that’s a heck of a lot of heat,” Pedersen said. “It will drive [temperatures in] the high latitudes in the northern hemisphere up by probably six or seven degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial time. That’s a huge change.”

The best-case scenario, he said, is the addition of only 2.4 watts. But to do that, “we have to essentially eliminate fossil fuels from our energy-producing diet … by 2050.”

Climate change won’t affect all areas of the province the same way. In the north, the growing season has already gotten longer, meaning farmers in the Peace region may be able to grow some crops more successfully.

But a general pattern of wetter winters and drier summers means that other agricultural areas, like the Okanagan, will have to get a lot smarter about water use.

Lower Mainland farmland will be at risk of flooding or soil salinization, something that Harford said has already happened to some farmland in Delta.

“Once the soil gets salty, there’s nothing you can do,” she said.

River flow in areas such as the Peace and the Kootenays will also change. Wetter winters will mean higher peak flows in the spring, but lower river flow in the summer. That means there will be less water to push through hydroelectric dams on the Peace and Columbia rivers, which together provide 77% of BC Hydro’s capacity.

Glaciers that feed the Columbia River are already in retreat and could shrink to the point that they no longer empty meltwater into the river throughout the spring and summer.

“When you talk about a Site C dam, that dam is going to be designed to last 100 years,” Pedersen said, referring to the new $8.8 billion hydro dam planned for the Peace River.

“How do you build into the design today flow regimes 100 years from now that will protect your electricity production?”

As sea levels rise, the Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley regions will have to invest a lot of resources into flood control and mitigation.

The B.C. government is planning for a one-metre sea level rise over the next 100 years and recently called for more federal spending to upgrade Fraser River dikes.

BTAWorks_sea_level_rise

“We’re also going to have to spend more money – a lot more – on new or revamped infrastructure,” Pedersen said.

But it’s the ocean that could be most drastically altered by climate change. The waters off B.C.’s coasts are particularly affected by ocean acidification, which occurs when ocean carbon dioxide levels rise.

In some pockets of the West Coast, water is so acidic that it has prevented shellfish larvae from forming shells. This has already started to affect shellfish farmers in B.C. and Washington state, but it could also change other parts of the ocean ecosystem.

“One of the principal food sources for salmon – which is a huge economic mainstay for British Columbia – is a little zooplankton that makes their shells out of calcium carbonate,” Pedersen said. “When they start to get negatively impacted by acidification, that has significant implications for the salmon.”

jstdenis@biv.com

Access this article By Jen St. Denis in BUSINESS VANCOUVER  Feb. 16, 2015

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Climate Change Likely to Displace Millions

Environmental advocates warn of a looming migration crisis as a result of climate change. They are urging negotiators drafting a climate change agreement to include provisions aimed at preventing mass migration by helping vulnerable communities adapt to the new climate reality.

“Polar bears live on sea ice. With the warming of the earth’s atmosphere, their habitat is melting. Unable to hunt in the open water, polar bears are dying-sometimes drowning as they search for ice floes that have disappeared.”

A video of polar bears teetering on top of floating icebergs is both shocking and moving.

Special Advisor to the Director of International Protection at the UN refugee agency, Jose Riera, said the polar bear has become the most emblematic image of climate change.

“That is often invoked as perhaps the strongest image of the impact of climate change. We were completely struck, however, that the impact on people and how that impact would play out was in some ways missing from the discussions,” he said.Screenshot 2015-02-12 11.18.51

The UNHCR assists 46.3 million refugees, stateless people, returnees, and internally displaced. Many of these people already are concentrated in climate change hot spots around the world. Riera said climate-related migration and displacement will pose huge challenges in the years ahead.

The UNHCR assists 46.3 million refugees, stateless people, returnees, and internally displaced. Many of these people already are concentrated in climate change hot spots around the world. Riera said climate-related migration and displacement will pose huge challenges in the years ahead.

Just 10 months remain before world leaders sign a climate change agreement in Paris. The UNHCR official said little time is left for addressing the crucial issues raised by the specter of millions of climate migrants forced to flee their homes.

“We hope that the parties will recognize that climate change is indeed a driver of human mobility and will likely increase the displacement of populations unless concrete measures are taken,” noted Riera. “The second big picture message is to encourage States to take measures to prevent and mitigate displacement in the context of climate change, including through adaptation strategies.”

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center tracks the number of people who are displaced by natural disasters. Director of the Center, Alfredo Zamudio, said the trends are not good.

“Our evidence shows that since 1970 until 2013, the risk to be affected for internal displacement has doubled, ” said Zamudio. “In 2013 almost 22 million people were displaced in at least 119 countries, almost three times as many people as displaced the same year by conflict and violence.”

Since 2008, when the center began monitoring displacement, 160 million people have been displaced in 161 countries. The highest risks are in Asia where countries are regularly exposed to typhoons, floods, and earthquakes.

Scientists agree the risk of displacement will increase in the coming decades as sea levels rise and global warming increases the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

Bernd Hemingway, director of the Department of Migration Management for the International Organization for Migration, does not share the view that migration is necessarily bad. If managed well, he says migration can be positive and can hold out hope to populations. He says migration is an important adaptation strategy if supported by policy action.

“In cases of natural disasters, there are no other choices than moving out of harms way to save lives. In slow onset events, migration may help individuals and communities to become more resilient by diversifying livelihood, ensuring access to key health and sanitation services and infrastructures and by contributing to development and adaptation in the places of origin through, for example, remittances,” said Hemingway.

Environmental advocates agree the climate change agenda must give more prominence to the looming migration crisis. They say measures that would allow people to remain in their homes and not be forced to flee should be explored. They say planned relocations should be a measure of last resort when all other adaptation strategies have failed.

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Two degrees of warming closer than you may think

It’s taken a hundred years of human-caused greenhouse emissions to push the global temperature up almost one degree Celsius (1C°), so another degree is still some time away. Right?  And there seems to have been a “pause” in warming over the last two decades, so getting to 2C° is going to take a good while, and we may have more time that we thought. Yes?

Wrong on both counts.

The world could be 2C° warmer in as little as two decades, according to the leading US climate scientist and “hockey stick” author, Dr Michael E. Mann. Writing in Scientific American in March 2014 (with the maths explained here), Mann says that new calculations “indicate that if the world continues to burn fossil fuels at the current rate, global warming will rise to 2C° by 2036” and to avoid that threshold “nations will have to keep carbon dioxide levels below 405 parts per million”, a level we have just about reached already.  Mann says the notion of a warming “pause” is false.

Screenshot 2015-02-11 11.23.57

 Continue reading about why 2C° could be just 20 years away here.

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The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2 °C

Policy makers have generally agreed that the average global temperature rise caused by greenhouse gas emissions should not exceed 2 °C above the average global temperature of pre-industrial times1. It has been estimated that to have at least a 50 per cent chance of keeping warming below 2 °C throughout the twenty-first century, the cumulative carbon emissions between 2011 and 2050 need to be limited to around 1,100 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (Gt CO2)23. However, the greenhouse gas emissions contained in present estimates of global fossil fuel reserves are around three times higher than this24, and so the unabated use of all current fossil fuel reserves is incompatible with a warming limit of 2 °C. Here we use a single integrated assessment model that contains estimates of the quantities, locations and nature of the world’s oil, gas and coal reserves and resources, and which is shown to be consistent with a wide variety of modelling approaches with different assumptions5, to explore the implications of this emissions limit for fossil fuel production in different regions. Our results suggest that, globally, a third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80 per cent of current coal reserves should remain unused from 2010 to 2050 in order to meet the target of 2 °C. We show that development of resources in the Arctic and any increase in unconventional oil production are incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming to 2 °C. Our results show that policy makers’ instincts to exploit rapidly and completely their territorial fossil fuels are, in aggregate, inconsistent with their commitments to this temperature limit. Implementation of this policy commitment would also render unnecessary continued substantial expenditure on fossil fuel exploration, because any new discoveries could not lead to increased aggregate production.

This paper is published in Nature. Access it here.

 

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New publication – Studying local climate adaptation: A heuristic research framework for comparative policy analysis

Studying local climate adaptation: A heuristic research framework for comparative policy analysis

Brenan Vogel, Daniel Henstra

Abstract

Climate change poses a significant risk for communities, and local governments around the world have begun responding by developing climate adaptation policies. Scholarship on local adaptation policy has proliferated in recent years, but insufficient attention has been paid to operationalization of the unit of analysis, and methods employed are typically inadequate to draw inferences about variation across cases. This article seeks to contribute to the conceptual and methodological foundations of a research agenda for comparative analysis of local adaptation policies and policy-making. Synthesizing insights from policy studies literature and existing adaptation research, the article identifies and operationalizes two aspects of public policy—policy content and policy process—which are salient objects of comparative analysis that typically vary from one community to another. The article also addresses research design, outlining a comparative case study methodology that incorporates various qualitative analytical techniques as the vehicle to examine these policy elements in empirical settings.

Access the article here.

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In major shift, Obama administration will plan for rising seas in all federal projects

Screenshot 2015-01-30 11.04.55President Obama will issue an executive order Friday directing federal agencies–as well as state and local governments drawing on federal funds–to adopt stricter building and siting standards to reflect scientific projections that future flooding will be more frequent and intense due to climate change.

The order, described by senior administration officials, represents a major shift for the federal government: while the Federal Emergency Management Administration published a memo three years ago saying it would take global warming into account when preparing for more severe storms, most agencies continue to rely on historic data rather than future projections for building projects.

The new standard gives agencies three options for establishing the flood elevation and hazard area they use in siting, design, and construction of federal projects.  They can use data and methods “informed by best-available, actionable climate science”; build two feet above the 100-year flood elevation for standard projects, and three feet above for critical buildings like hospitals and evacuation centers; or build to the 500-year flood elevation.

The White House move comes just days after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a massive post-Sandy report examining flood risks for 31,200 miles of the north Atlantic coast. The research explicitly took sea level rise induced by climate change into account, and finds that “Flood risk is increasing for coastal populations and supporting infrastructure.”

Screenshot 2015-01-30 11.08.23

Continue reading this article by  Juliet Eilperin in the Washington Post here.

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Student Competition! Blue SFU: Canadian Water Summit

Screenshot 2015-01-23 11.07.39Since 2009, the Canadian Water Summit has served as a collaborative forum for leaders from diverse sectors to share insights and advance a united mission: to build a sustainable water future for Canada.

In collaboration with the 2015 summit, Simon Fraser University is holding a student competition with entrants to be selected for presentation in Vancouver on June 25, 2015. The winning contestants will receive a monetary prize of $150 and be invited as guests to the summit.

The competition is open to any student or student group, to prepare presentations in either of two categories:

1. Creative videos, approximately 2-5 minutes in length; or

2. Research poster submissions.

Submissions should address the general topic of the water-energy nexus. Sub-topics could include issues that address the intersection of water, energy and food; agriculture; economics and investment; infrastructure renewal; social issues and more.

Submission Details 

Video submissions must be short original videos, of 2-5 minutes in length, of all genres including drama, documentary, artistic, animation, experimental, or any hybrid. Contestants may produce the video on a computer or mobile phone, or use full production crew. Submissions may be humorous or serious but should be thought provoking. The video should also describe any data that supports your ideas. Final videos must be submitted in mp4 format.

Poster submissions must be original posters sized to a maximum of 1.2 m wide by 1.2 m high. They should summarize, in a non-technical format, innovative ideas in the broad area of the water-energy nexus and be thought provoking. Posters may be hand drawn or prepared in PowerPoint, Illustrator or any other media tool. Final posters must be submitted in PDF format.

Judging 

Posters and Videos will be judged separately based on (1) originality of topic, (2) how well the submission highlights the connection between water and energy (3) how well the submission communicates the importance of the chosen topic to Canada’s water sources, (4) the appropriateness of the solution proposed, (5) the quality of production, and (6) how well the submission draws and keeps the viewer’s attention.

Deadline for submissions is 4 pm on May 15, 2015. Submissions can be made anytime at blue-sfu@sfu.ca.

For more information contact: Leigh McGregor, Manager, Recruitment & Community Liaison and Faculty Advisor at leighm@sfu.ca.

 

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A dialogue: climate change, divestment and society – Navigating a complex issue – Live Webcast

Time: 7pm, Monday January 26th, 2015

Location: Flury Hall (Room B150) Bob Wright Centre – University of Victoria

Live Webcast

Panelists:

  • Malkolm Boothroyd, Divest UVic
  • Steve Douglas, Vice President, Investor Relations, Suncor Energy Inc.
  • Stephen Hume, Columnist, The Vancouver Sun
  • Cary Krosinsky, Co-Founder, Carbon Tracker Initiative & Lecturer, Yale University
  • Crystal Lameman, Member, Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Treaty No. 6

Moderator: Thomas F. Pedersen, Executive Director, Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions

Please join us, in person or by webcast, for this free public dialogue. This event is sponsored by the University of Victoria and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.

For more information visit http://www.uvic.ca/climateforum/

 
Other events of interest 

 

PICS Lecture – Mapping Extreme Temperatures and their Health Risks in the Lower Mainlaind

Extreme hot weather can be a serious health threat in our region. Climate change models indicate these hot weather events will become more frequent and intense over the coming decades. Join speakers Sarah Henderson (UBC) and Anders Knudby (SFU), and moderator Tim Takaro (SFU) as they chart a map of our Lower Mainland’s extreme heat events and health risks.

When: January 22nd, 2015 from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm

Where: Room 1400 – Harbour Centre, SFU Vancouver Campus, located at 515 West Hastings Street

For more info: http://www.sfu.ca/climatechange/pics-sfu/events.html#ExtremeTemperaturesHealthRisks

 

2015 Greater Vancouver Clean Technology Expo & Championship.

On January 28th, 2015, forty clean technology companies from across the Greater Vancouver region will come together at the newly built LEED-Gold Surrey City Hall Atrium for a one day pitch-based competition for the title of Greater Vancouver’s Clean Technology Champion + Free Powerhouse workshop.

Where: Surrey City Hall 13450 104 Avenue

When: January 28th from 10 am to 4 pm

For more info: http://www.surrey.ca/business-economic-development/16130.aspx

SFU is a gold sponsor

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300,000 at risk in Lower Mainland flood: experts

More than 300,000 homes and billions of dollars of infrastructure could be affected by a major flood in the Lower Mainland because our dikes haven’t been built to withstand more severe flooding caused by climate change, reports and experts say.

A $500,000 push is under way to assess how bad the damage could be and where is vulnerable – the first step to unifying a fragmented Lower Mainland flood management strategy, said David Marshall of the Fraser Basin Council.

“To me, this the most critical issue that the Lower Mainland will face in the next 15-20 years,” Marshall told CTV News.

Lower Mainland flood risk

Experts say dikes in the Lower Mainland weren’t built to withstand the kind of flooding caused by climate change. (CTV)

There are some 1,100 kilometres of dikes in B.C., with 600 kilometres in the Lower Mainland. Much of that was built through a federal and provincial program in the decades after a devastating flood in 1949, which washed away 2,000 homes.

In the late 1990s and 2000, cuts at the federal and provincial levels left municipalities in charge of the infrastructure, making B.C. one of the few jurisdictions worldwide without a region-wide flood authority, said flood consultant Tamsin Lyle.

“I would argue that we are extremely under-resourced when it comes to flood hazard,” Lyle said.

Some municipalities are aware of the flood risk and are actively investing in new equipment to protect their citizens, like North Vancouver, she said.

But others lack basic tools like flood maps, which can estimate where the biggest damage is likely to be, and require changes in new buildings in the area.

The disorganization becomes a huge problem now because flood risk has changed since the time those dikes were built, said Lyle.

Climate change models suggest that floods will be more severe and more frequent, putting pressure on the river dike system.

On top of that, sea level will rise, authorities say, with the City of Vancouver mandating that buildings must be prepared for flooding as much as 4.6 meters above sea level.

That means that even cities farther inland have to deal with the threat of a higher sea level, said Dana Soong of the City of Coquitlam.

“The current weather forecasts look at a sea level rise of meters,” he said. “We have to prepare for that.”

Lyle looks to the Calgary floods in 2013 to show off a worst-case scenario. In that flood, damages were estimated at more than $5 billion. Vancouver’s could be worse as it has a larger population with a larger river, as well as dangers from the coast.

The Fraser Basin Council’s Marshall says his organization has stepped in to unite the province, the federal government, 25 municipalities and other regional interests such as railway companies and pipeline company Kinder Morgan.

The non-profit has raised $500,000 to conduct a detailed study of the risks in the Lower Mainland, run through likely flood scenarios, and determine how best to allocate scarce resources to protect citizens, Marshall said.

That study will be finished at the end of the year, he said, and then the next job will be to figure out how to build the infrastructure required, he said.

CTV News Vancouver

Published Monday, January 19, 2015 4:50PM PST
Last Updated Monday, January 19, 2015 8:15PM PST

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Job posting: Adaptation and Resilience Planner

Screenshot 2015-01-19 11.58.51Adaptation and Resilience Planner – Canada Office

Background

ICLEI is an international association of local governments. Its mission is to build and serve a worldwide movement of local governments that are committed to achieving tangible improvements in environmental sustainability. ICLEI’s main program areas include: climate change (both mitigation and adaptation), and biodiversity. Founded in 1990, ICLEI has grown to become the largest international association of local government, representing more than 1,200 cities and towns in over 65 countries. ICLEI’s adaptation works centres around the delivery of our Building Adaptive and Resilient Communities programming and the creation of new resources and policy documents for Canadian municipalities. The BARC Program offers municipalities from across Canada the opportunity to implement Changing Climate, Changing Communities: Guide and Workbook for Municipal Climate Adaptation with facilitation and technical support from ICLEI staff. The purpose of this Initiative is to work with local governments to enhance the capacity of staff and stakeholders to assess local vulnerability to climate change and effectively implement adaptation strategies and integrate adaptation planning with other key processes. In this roll, we assist municipalities with initiation, research, local action planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. In addition, ICLEI Canada produces a variety of resources for municipalities on adaptation and the municipal role in responding to the impacts of climate change. These resources range from toolkits and planners, guides, case studies, and other policy documents.

The Adaptation and Resilience Planner’s primary job duties will focus on delivering on initiatives, as described above, relating to ICLEI Canada’s Building Adaptive and Resilient Communities programming.

Basic Qualifications

• Understanding of adaptation and climate change impacts

• Excellent writing, facilitation, and communication skills

• Ability to work in both French and English

• Strong analytical, research and conceptual skills

• Knowledge and experience of local government decision making and processes

• Ability to work carefully and accurately with complex information

• Ability to travel locally, nationally, and internationally on occasion

• Understanding of the non-profit NGO environment

• Undergraduate degree in geography, environmental studies/science, political science or related discipline

Desirable Qualifications

• Experience working with non-government organizations (NGOs)

• Experience working with (or in) municipal government

• Understanding of vulnerability and risk assessment methodologies

• Knowledge in marketing and communications strategies

• Demonstrated talents in marketing and fundraising

• Graduate degree in urban planning, geography, environmental studies

Reporting

The Adaptation & Resilience Planner reports to the Manager, ICLEI Canada. All tasks and responsibilities described below are under the guidance and supervision of the Manager, ICLEI Canada, or designate.

Tasks and Responsibilities

Support ICLEI Canada in the following areas of activity:

• Assist in providing technical and general support for BARC

• Assist in the development of adaptation related programs and materials

• Support the development of proposals and responses to Requests for Proposals (RFP) for ICLEI Canada

• Support ICLEI partnerships with local municipalities involved in BARC

• Help with marketing activities for ICLEI Canada

• Support ICLEI-Canada staff with fundraising efforts

• Support ICLEI-Canada workplan development

• Help develop linkages between ICLEI Canada’s mitigation and adaptation program areas

• Provide support in the exploration and development of new projects and project funding

• Support the development of communications and related tools between ICLEI Canada, members, program partners and the public

• Explore and help develop new funding opportunities for existing programs

Salary

The salary for this position will be commensurate with experience.

Application Process

Send CV and letter of intent to Ewa Jackson, Manager, ICLEI Canada:

ewa.jackson@iclei.org by January 30, 2015.

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The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2 °C

Screenshot 2015-01-13 17.15.09The paper states that “85% of Canadian bitumen reserves remain unburnable if the 2C limit (for global temperature changes) is not to be exceeded.”

Policy makers have generally agreed that the average global temperature rise caused by greenhouse gas emissions should not exceed 2 °C above the average global temperature of pre-industrial times1. It has been estimated that to have at least a 50 per cent chance of keeping warming below 2 °C throughout the twenty-first century, the cumulative carbon emissions between 2011 and 2050 need to be limited to around 1,100 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (Gt CO2)23. However, the greenhouse gas emissions contained in present estimates of global fossil fuel reserves are around three times higher than this24, and so the unabated use of all current fossil fuel reserves is incompatible with a warming limit of 2 °C. Here we use a single integrated assessment model that contains estimates of the quantities, locations and nature of the world’s oil, gas and coal reserves and resources, and which is shown to be consistent with a wide variety of modelling approaches with different assumptions5, to explore the implications of this emissions limit for fossil fuel production in different regions. Our results suggest that, globally, a third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80 per cent of current coal reserves should remain unused from 2010 to 2050 in order to meet the target of 2 °C. We show that development of resources in the Arctic and any increase in unconventional oil production are incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming to 2 °C. Our results show that policy makers’ instincts to exploit rapidly and completely their territorial fossil fuels are, in aggregate, inconsistent with their commitments to this temperature limit. Implementation of this policy commitment would also render unnecessary continued substantial expenditure on fossil fuel exploration, because any new discoveries could not lead to increased aggregate production.

Find the full paper by Christophe McGlade and Paul Ekins, Nature, 11/01/15 here.

  1. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Report of the Conference of the Parties on its Fifteenth Session, held in Copenhagen from 7 to 19 December 2009. Part Two: Action taken by the Conference of the Parties at its Fifteenth Session. United Nations Climate Change Conf. Report 43 http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2009/cop15/eng/11a01.pdf (UNFCC, 2009)
  2. Meinshausen, M. et al. Greenhouse gas emission targets for limiting global warming to 2 °C. Nature 458,1158–1162 (2009)
  3. Clarke, L. et al. in Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change (Edenhofer, O. et al.) Ch. 6 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014)
  4. Raupach, M. R. et al. Sharing a quota on cumulative carbon emissions. Nature Clim. Chang. 4, 873–879(2014)
  5. IPCC Working Group III. Integrated Assessment Modelling Consortium (IAMC) AR5 Scenario Databasehttps://secure.iiasa.ac.at/web-apps/ene/AR5DB/ (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis2014).
  6. Allen, M. R. et al. Warming caused by cumulative carbon emissions towards the trillionth tonne. Nature458, 1163–1166 (2009)

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Resilient shores: After Sandy, climate scientists and architects explore how to co-exist with rising tides

After the wind, rain and waves of Hurricane Sandy subsided, many of the modest homes in the Chelsea Heights section of Atlantic City, New Jersey, were filled to their windows with murky water. Residents returned to find roads inundated by the storm surge. Some maneuvered through the streets by boat.

This mode of transport could become more common in neighborhoods like Chelsea Heights as coastal planners rethink how to cope with the increasing risk of hurricane-induced flooding over the coming decades. Rather than seeking to defend buildings and infrastructure from storm surges, a team of architects and climate scientists is exploring a new vision, with an emphasis on living with rising waters. “Every house will be a waterfront house,” said Princeton Associate Professor of Architecture Paul Lewis. “We’re trying to find a way that canals can work their way through and connect each house, so that kayaks and other small boats are able to navigate through the water.”

The researchers aim for no less than a reinvention of flood hazard planning for the East Coast. A new approach, led by Princeton Professor of Architecture Guy Nordenson, rejects the strict dividing line between land and water that coastal planners historically have imposed, favoring the development of “amphibious suburbs” and landscapes that can tolerate periodic floods. These resilient designs can be readily modified as technologies, conditions and climate predictions change.

To plan for future flood risks, Princeton climate scientists are using mathematical models of hurricanes to predict storm surge levels over the next century, taking into account the effects of sea level rise at different locations. Four design teams — from Princeton, Harvard University, the City College of New York and the University of Pennsylvania — are using these projections to guide resilience plans for specific sites along the coast: Atlantic City; Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island; New York City’s Jamaica Bay; and Norfolk, Virginia.

Screenshot 2015-01-07 11.54.15

The low-lying barrier island that is home to Atlantic City is particularly vulnerable to storm surges, especially in parts of the city, such as residential Chelsea Heights, that were built on wetlands. Researchers are exploring ways to make existing neighborhoods (Panel A) more resilient in the face of occasional storm surges. By raising houses, using roads as low levees and letting abandoned lots return to wetland conditions, these neighborhoods can become “amphibious suburbs” (Panel B). (Image courtesy of Paul Lewis, School of Architecture)

Continue reading here.

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Top 10 Misguided Climate Deniers’ Quotes of 2014

Screenshot 2014-12-31 10.22.29Published on Wednesday, December 31, 2014 by Food & Water Watch Blog

Every year climate deniers manage to say some truly misguided things in an attempt to appease their oil and gas industry sponsors. From breathtaking avoidance of the issue to outright denial; from magic Icelandic volcanoes to refusal to believe the experts, politicians find a variety of ways to spout climate denial nonsense.

As 2014 ends and we move into a new era of Climate Deniers in charge of both houses of Congress, we thought we’d give you our Top 10 Misguided Climate Deniers’ Quotes of 2014.

1) “The emissions that are being put in the air by that volcano are a thousand years’ worth of emissions that would come from all of the vehicles, all of the manufacturing in Europe.”Senator Lisa Murkowski, (R-AK) – Incoming Chairman, Energy & Natural Resources Committee, $733,144 from oil and gas industry in her career

2) “We have 186 percent of normal snow pack. That’s global warming?” Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), $489,933 from oil and gas industry in his career

3) “Calling CO2 a pollutant is doing a disservice the country, and I believe a disservice to the world.” Ex-Governor Rick Perry (R-TX), $977,624 from oil and gas for his 2012 Presidential Campaign

4) “Listen, I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change,” Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), $1,463,788 from oil and gas industry in his career

4) (tie) “I’m not a scientist,” Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), $1,783,169 from oil and gas industry in his career

6) “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.” Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), $295,138 from oil and gas industry in his career

7) “Anybody who’s ever studied any geology knows that over periods of time, long periods of time, that the climate changes, mmkay? I’m not sure anybody exactly knows why.”Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), $129,305 from oil and gas industry in his career

8) “I don’t know the answer to that question. I don’t think science does, either.” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), on whether human activity causes climate change, $508,549 from oil and gas industry in his career

9) “And the problem with climate change is there’s never been a day in the history of the world in which the climate is not changing.” Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), $932,568 from oil and gas industry in his career

10) “How long will it take for the sea level to rise two feet? I mean, think about it, if your ice cube melts in your glass it doesn’t overflow; it’s displacement. I mean, this is some of the things they’re talking about mathematically and scientifically don’t make sense.” Ex-Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), $118,100 from oil and gas industry in his career

 

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Sink or Swim: Designing for a Sea Change – Annenberg Space for Photography – Los Angeles photo exhibit report

Screenshot 2014-12-29 10.51.09On view from December 13, 2014 to May 3, 2015 at the Annenberg Space for Photography is a timely exhibition focused on coastal resiliency called Sink or Swim: Designing for a Sea Change. 

The exhibition features work from acclaimed fine art, news and architectural photographers Iwan Baan, Stephen Wilkes, Paula Bronstein, Jonas Bendiksen and Monica Nouwens, and will include a number of newly commissioned images.

Sink or Swim: Designing for a Sea Change explores the human story of resilience, from adaptation for survival to ambitious infrastructure planning, in some of the richest and poorest of the world’s coastal communities. Rather than showing pristine architectural photography, the photographs present viewers with various human responses to changes in their landscapes that could be intensified by sea level rise. Sink or Swim aims to foster critical dialogue through the provocative juxtaposition of diverse responses to a challenge shared by millions worldwide.

Curated by architecture writer and radio Host and Executive Producer of KCRW’s “DnA: Design and Architecture” Frances Anderton with the Annenberg Space for Photography, Sink or Swim features newly commissioned and archival works by photographers Iwan Baan, Stephen Wilkes, Paula Bronstein, and Jonas Bendiksen. Additionally, this is the first exhibition for Annenberg Space for Photography to feature commissioned works. Through the work of this select group of architectural, fine art and news photographers, the exhibition casts an eye on both the problem of climate change in densely populated coastal regions and contemporary design as a means to navigate the changing landscapes.

Screenshot 2014-12-29 10.55.10

Admission is FREE.

Please note that the Annenberg Space for Photography will be CLOSED through Saturday, December 13.

Annenberg Space for Photography Skylight Studios Hours:

Wed-Sun: 11am – 6pm

Mon-Tue: CLOSED

The Annenberg Space for Photography and Skylight Studios close one (1) hour prior to Iris Nights Lectures.

More info on visiting here.

 

 

 

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Bad News for Florida: Models of Greenland Ice Melting Could Be Way Off

Screenshot 2014-12-18 15.36.48Existing computer models may be severely underestimating the risk to Greenland’s ice sheet — which would add 20 feet to sea levels if it all melted — from warming temperatures, according to two studies released Monday.

Satellite data were instrumental for both studies — one which concludes that Greenland is likely to see many more lakes that speed up melt, and the other which better tracks large glaciers all around Earth’s largest island.

The lakes study, published in the peer-reviewed Nature Climate Change, found that what are called “supraglacial lakes” have been migrating inland since the 1970s as temperatures warm, and could double on Greenland by 2060.

The study upends models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change because they “didn’t allow for lake spreading, so the work has to be done again,” study co-author Andrew Shepherd, director of Britain’s Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, told NBCNews.com.

Those lakes can speed up ice loss since, being darker than the white ice, they can absorb more of the sun’s heat and cause melting. The melt itself creates channels through the ice sheet to weaken it further, sending ice off the sheet and into the ocean.

“When you pour pancake batter into a pan, if it rushes quickly to the edges of the pan, you end up with a thin pancake,” study lead author Amber Leeson, a researcher at Britain’s University of Leeds, explained in a statement. “It’s similar to what happens with ice sheets: The faster it flows, the thinner it will be.

“When the ice sheet is thinner,” she added, “it is at a slightly lower elevation and at the mercy of warmer air temperatures than it would have been if it were thicker, increasing the size of the melt zone around the edge of the ice sheet.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHEN0b77bFM

The mix of IPCC models have Greenland contributing 8.7 inches to global sea level rise by 2100 without the doubling of supraglacial lakes, but the team fears that a doubling could add almost as much as that over the next century.

Such a rise in sea level would have serious repercussions for heavily populated low-lying areas, like Florida or Bangladesh, which could see beach and barrier island erosion and salt water encroachment, scientists say.

The glaciers study, published in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used NASA satellite data to reconstruct how the height of the ice sheet has changed at nearly 100,000 locations from 1993 to 2012.

The team found significant variations that aren’t factored in by existing computer models for future changes on Greenland because they focus on just four glaciers.

“The problem is that these models have been applied to four glaciers only, one of which has not been changing much, to predict how these glaciers may change in the future,” Kees van der Veen, a study co-author and University of Kansas geographer, told NBCNews.com.

“Results for these four glaciers have been extrapolated to the entire ice sheet to estimate the contribution of the entire ice sheet to sea level rise,” he adds. “Our results show that this is not appropriate because of how differently individual glaciers have changed over the last decade.”

For example, those models don’t account for rapid shrinkage in southeast Greenland, leading the researchers to believe the ice sheet could lose ice faster in the future than today’s simulations would suggest.

The ice sheet has 242 outlet glaciers at least a mile wide, adds study lead author and University of Buffalo geophysicist Bea Csatho. “What we see is that their behavior is complex in space and time … The current models do not address this complexity.”

Factors that might influence the differences include local variables like the width and depth of a glacier, how close it is to the water, the ocean floor’s geology and even volcanic activity below ground, Csatho told NBCNews.com.

Ted Scambos, a senior scientist at the NASA and National Science Foundation funded National Snow & Ice Data Center, said the study provides “unprecedented detail” about Greenland.

“What Dr. Csatho’s group has done,” he said, “is truly admirable — marshaling a huge amount of data to reveal not just where, but when and how much, ice is being lost from every glacier system in Greenland.”

Neither study tried to predict how far off current models might be, and both teams said it’s up to modelers to now incorporate their data to come up with new estimates.

“It shouldn’t be too difficult for modelers … so I would expect an advance pretty soon,” Shepherd said. “It’s a good example of why we need to consider observations and small-scale processes as well as running global climate models; you can never be sure that all factors have been accounted for.”

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2014 will be the hottest year on record

Screenshot 2014-12-18 10.07.56

According to data from NOAA, 2014 is sure to set a new temperature record

For those of us fixated on whether 2014 will be the hottest year on record, the results are in. At least, we know enough that we can make the call. According the global data from NOAA, 2014 will be the hottest year ever recorded.

I can make this pronouncement even before the end of the year because each month, I collect daily global average temperatures. So far, December is running about 0.5°C above the average. The climate and weather models predict that the next week will be about 0.75°C above average. This means, December will come in around 0.6°C above average. Are these daily values accurate? Well the last two months they have been within 0.05°C of the final official results.

What does this all mean? Well, when I combine December with the year-to-date as officially reported, I predict the annual temperature anomaly will be 0.674°C. This beats the prior record by 0.024°C. That is a big margin in terms of global temperatures.

For those of us who are not fixated on whether any individual year is a record but are more concerned with trends, this year is still important. Particularly because according to those who deny the basic physics and our understanding of climate change, this year wasn’t supposed to be particularly warm.

For those who thought that climate change was “natural” and driven by ocean currents, this has been a tough year. For instance, using NOAA standards, this year didn’t even have an El Niño. NOAA defines an El Niño as 5 continuous/overlapping 3-month time periods wherein a particular region in the Pacific has temperatures elevated more than 0.5oC.

Interestingly, we are currently close to an El Niño, and if current patterns continue for a few weeks, an official El Niño will be announced. But it hasn’t been yet, and if we do get an El Niño, it will affect next year more than this year. How could the hottest year have occurred then, when the cards are not stacked in its favor? The obvious and correct answer is, because of continued emission of greenhouse gases.

Continue reading here.

 

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